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Team hunts for elusive ACC win

Streaking Wake Forest squad poses threat to visiting Virginia

As the regular season begins to wind down, the Virginia field hockey team looks to collect a confidence-boosting win this weekend against Wake Forest in its final road test before the ACC Championships, which are slated to begin Nov. 3. The Cavaliers (7-10, 0-3 ACC), who recently snapped their three-game losing skid, hope to build momentum heading down the stretch after limping along for much of the season.

Monday night, Virginia earned a much-needed win against in-state rival William & Mary with a 4-3 triumph - only the Cavaliers' second victory in its last six games. The squad used two early goals from sophomore forward Elly Buckley to put the pressure on the Tribe and relied on its defense to hold back a surging William & Mary attack during the second half.

Going up against a Demon Deacon squad (7-8, 0-3 ACC) which blasted five goals against Radford Tuesday, the Cavaliers would like to replicate the defensive tenacity which ultimately gave the team a morale boost.

"I think if we play the denial defense we know how to play, we are unstoppable," sophomore back Lane Smith said. "But at the same time, our offense has had to make a lot of changes as well, and I know they'll come out with the same ferocity they did on Monday."

Staying consistent has been an issue for the Cavaliers, who will need to exhibit persistence and tenacity Saturday against their rival, currently riding a season-high five-game win streak. Despite past struggles and a red-hot opponent, Virginia remains confident in its ability to put together a complete game plan and earn its first conference victory.

"I think it's important ... that we really continue to prove how much growth we've made this season," Smith said. "We've really made leaps and bounds, and I think we'll continue to surprise everyone in the next two games."

Standing in the way of the Cavaliers' goal is a Wake Forest squad which is also hungry for its first win against a conference foe in 2011. Sophomore forward Kari Walkley paces the offense, which is arguably playing at its highest level all year, with 11 goals. The Demon Deacon attack has both outshot and outscored its opponents throughout its recent five-game win streak, which came on the heels of a 2-8 start to the season. Coach Michele Madison and the Cavaliers recognize the importance of this game, as the winner will likely avoid finishing the season at the bottom of the conference standings.

"Nobody wants to finish last in the ACC," Madison said. "We have to find a way to get it done, to get where we need to be. We need to fight for it. Everyone in the ACC fights for it, and we need to take advantages of our opportunities to make it happen."

Should Virginia fail to vault past the Demon Deacons this weekend, the Cavaliers will have another chance to collect a season-ending boost against fierce foe Duke next weekend.

Saturday's game is slated for 1 p.m. in Winston-Salem.